Media By: Rosalind English


ISIL child brides: a big care problem for the Family Court?

27 August 2015 by

isis-islamic-state-528116London Borough Tower of Hamlets v B [2015] EWHC 2491 (Fam) 21 August 2015 – read judgment 

When a judge waxes lyrical about a child, garlanded with starred GCSEs, their intelligence, their medical school ambitions, you wonder what is coming. It’s the judicial equivalent of those blurred reproductions in the press of murder victims’  graduate portraits. In this case, a sixteen year old girl “B”, the subject of a careful but nevertheless alarming judgment in the Family Division, turned out to be one of the many girls groomed by their family for exodus to Syria; all of whom appear to be:

intelligent young girls, highly motivated academically, each of whom has, to some and greatly varying degrees, been either radicalised or exposed to extreme ideology promulgated by those subscribing to the values of the self-styled Islamic State.

B herself seemed unoppressed by the situation she was in and indeed wrote to the judge in those terms. She and her family refused to give evidence and sat impassively whilst Heydon J gave judgment.

They have betrayed no emotion; they have been impassive and inscrutable as I have faced the challenge of deciding whether their family should be fragmented and their children removed. Their self discipline is striking. They have listened carefully. The mother has taken careful notes. They have revealed nothing in their responses.

These cases differ from the common run of family abuse cases in that these young women, in the judge’s words, have “boundless opportunities, comfortable homes and carers who undoubtedly love them”. But they have been seduced by a belief that travelling to Syria to become what is known as ‘Jihadi brides’ is somehow romantic and honourable both to them and to their families.
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Adam Wagner shortlisted for prestigious human rights award

25 August 2015 by

Liberty_britainA hand of applause for our Chief Ed Adam Wagner who’s just been  shortlisted for the 2015 Liberty Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award in recognition of his innovative efforts to bring human rights to life by correcting misinformation and explaining why human rights matter for everyone – the full list of nominees is here.

Adam Wagner founded the UK Human Rights Blog five years ago and more recently the new human rights information project RightsInfo, indefatigably combining all this writing and editing with his busy career as a barrister.

As Liberty’s press release says,

The barrister and campaigner has devoted his time and energy to debunking the myths which have grown up around our Human Rights Act, making the law more accessible to all in the process.

The Liberty Human Rights Awards celebrate the achievements of organisations and individuals from all walks of life who have worked tirelessly to protect and promote fundamental freedoms at a time when the post-war human rights consensus faces an unprecedented attack.

The award ceremony is open to the public (you can get tickets here) and will take place on 7 September at London’s Southbank Centre. It will be hosted by writer, actor and comedian Jo Brand.

When can the courts rule on the legality of future behaviour?

4 August 2015 by

toad_white_natterjackKent & others v Arun District Council and others [2015] EWHC 2295 – read judgment

Iain O’Donnell of 1COR acted for the Council in this case: he played no part in the writing of this post.

This case concerned the application of the law in relation to future conduct, in particular, the role of the judicial review procedure in determining what precisely is meant by the prohibition on the selling of live animals under the Pet Animals Act 1951.

This is a detailed statutory provision inspired by welfare and conservation concerns. It has a complicated legislative history, and essentially the judge hearing the application was being asked to decide whether certain future activities might be caught by it.

For the record, the statute was introduced to protect the welfare of animals sold as pets. It requires any person keeping a pet shop to be licensed by the local council, which will only license such a business if they are satisfied as to the suitability of the accommodation, nutrition and safety of the animals concerned. Section 2 bans the selling of animals in the street, including on barrows and markets.

Councils are responsible for enforcing the law in this area.
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Scheme for Exceptional Case Funding not providing the required safety net

19 July 2015 by

legal-aidIS (by the Official Solicitor as Litigation Friend)  v The Director of Legal Aid Casework and Anor [2015] EWHC 1965 (Admin) (15 July 2015) – read judgment

Collins J has ruled that the Legal Aid guidance as to whether to provide exceptional funding in certain cases is so rigid and complicated as to be unlawful.  

Although no declaration has been made in terms, he said that the scheme as operated was “not providing the safety net promised by Ministers and is not in accordance with [the relevant statute] in that it does not ensure that applicants’ human rights are not breached or are not likely to be breached.”

The actual case before him concerned a defendant who had in fact been granted legal aid consequent to an earlier decision by the Appeal Court. There were five other claims which raised similar issues in relation to the guidance and in which the individual claimants asserted that there had been a wrongful refusal of Exceptional Case Funding under Section 10(3) of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). It was ordered that the six claims should be heard together to deal with the individual circumstances of each claimant and the attack on the guidance. The claims came before the same judge, Collins J, and on 13 June 2014 he granted judicial review in each of the six cases. His decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal by the defendants, but in this case the appeal was discontinued. The cases were reported under the title of R (Gudanaviciene) v. DLAC and Lord Chancellor (read my previous post on the Court of Appeal’s decision).
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When the Sh*t hits the Ban

30 June 2015 by

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination ActJack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds, Plaintiffs v Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services

The first prosecution under the 2008 US Genetic  Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) has won $2.25 million jury damages for the individuals involved .

I have posted about genetic discrimination here and here. In the US some of these problems have been foreseen and legislated against: GINA prohibits discrimination against healthy individuals for employment decisions or health insurance purposes on the basis of genetic information alone; it also prevents employers and insurance providers from demanding or using information from genetic tests.

The law does include limited exemptions, however. Forensic laboratories can ask workers for their DNA to check that employees’ genetic material does not contaminate the genetic samples that they analyse.
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Care arrangements for severely autistic man did not deprive him of his liberty

26 June 2015 by

Court of protectionBournemouth Borough Council v PS and another [2015] EWCOP (11 June 2015) – read judgment

Mostyn J in the Court of Protection was asked to determine whether care arrangements in place for a 28-year-old man (BS) with severe autism and who lacked capacity constituted a deprivation of his liberty. He concluded that the care arrangements in place were in his best interests and did not constitute a deprivation of his liberty under Article 5 of the ECHR. Although he was subject to observation and monitoring in his own home he was not under continuous supervision and he was afforded appreciable privacy; there were no locks on the doors and he was free to leave.

Interestingly, comments made in this case shows that judges, or some of them, do engage with what is being said about them in the blogosphere.
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Copying material for private use: is it legal?

20 June 2015 by

fva-630-copyright-infringement-dmca-stock-photo-shutterstock-630wBritish Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and others, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and another [2015] EWHC 1723 (Admin) – read judgment

An exception to copyright infringement for private use has failed to survive a challenge in the High Court. But this may not be the end of the story. Although he accepted part of the claimants’ contentions, Green J observed that

the Claimants’ argument does not sit well or easily with the very unusual and particular circumstances which have led to the decision to introduce the private use exception in the first place. These are that the advent of digitalisation has led to a market where device sellers and consumers assume they may copy and where rightholders have not sought private law remedies against infringers.[my italics]

It is a particular feature of this case that there is a widespread consensus that the law has signally failed to keep up with market reality and with reasonable consumer expectations and indeed has been brought into disrepute by its condemnation as illegal of activities which are now accepted by consumers as lawful and which in actual fact form the basic commercial premise upon which copying and storage devices are actively sold throughout Europe.

Having upheld a small part of the challenge, Green J will now hear submissions as to what flows from this conclusion and from the judgment generally. In particular he will hear submissions as to whether any issue of law that he had decided should be referred to the Court of Justice and if so as to the question(s) that should be asked.
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Withdrawal of nutrition and hydration would not offend right to life – Strasbourg Court

16 June 2015 by

P3_010457_Sonde_SHS_PUR_violett_Kurzzeit_SG8_80_A6_RGB_575px_01Lambert and Others v. France (application no. 46043/14) – read judgment

In an important step away from Pretty v UK, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has upheld the right of to die with dignity by ruling that there would be no violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights if artificial nutrition and hydration were to be withdrawn from a patient in a persistent vegetative state.

Although the facts were very different, it is heartening to see Strasbourg at last allowing the argument that the state’s obligation to protect life also involves a duty to respect people’s rights to exit life with dignity. The importance of this ruling cannot be underestimated, as can be seen in the ferocity of dissent set out in the Separate Opinion annexed to the judgment (discussed at the end of this post.)

The case involved a challenge by some of the patient’s family members to a judgment delivered on 24 June 2014 by the Conseil d’État which authorised this step.  The following summary of the facts and judgment is based on the Court’s press release.

Background facts

Vincent Lambert sustained serious head injuries in a road-traffic accident on 29 September 2008, which left him tetraplegic and in a state of complete dependency. At the time of this hearing he was in the care of a hospital which specialises in patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state.In 2011 his condition was characterised as minimally conscious and in 2014 as vegetative. He receives artificial nutrition and hydration which is administered enterally, through a gastric tube.
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Is it homophobic to turn away gay blood donors?

3 June 2015 by

mike 0010

mike 0010

Léger (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-528/13 (29 April 2015) – read judgment

Blood donation centres all over Europe are grateful for volunteers, but sometimes people don’t make it through the assessment process.  Restrictions on male homosexual blood donors are particularly tricky, because they fly in the face of equality, whilst reflecting our current, no doubt inadequate, understanding of how infectious diseases are transmitted, and how long pathogens remain viable in human blood.

This case started when a French citizen, M. Léger, presented himself at his local blood donation centre. He was turned down after interview. The relevant law in France implements two EU Directives on blood donation which lay down specific conditions regarding eligibility.

Legal background

This was a request to the European Court (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling on Directive 2002/98/EC which imposes safety standing on the collection of blood for therapeutic use (the “Blood Directive”). It requires that blood should only be taken from individuals “whose health status is such that no detrimental effects will ensue as a result of the donation and that any risk of transmission of infectious diseases is minimised”. It also states that potential donors should be assessed by way of interview for their suitability.
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No duty of care to disclose to pregnant daughter father’s genetic disease – High Court

20 May 2015 by

12280487228o6zg0ABC v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and others [2015] EWHC 139, Nicol J – read judgment

Philip Havers QC  and Hannah Noyce, and Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel Q.C. and Henry Witcomb  of Crown Office Row represented the defendants and claimant respectively in this case. None of them have had anything to do with the writing of this post.

I have blogged before on the Pandora’s box of ethical problems and dilemmas emerging out of our increasing understanding of genetic disorders (see here, here and here), and here is a case that encompasses some of the most difficult of them.
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Mother paraded as “intimidated martyr” to cheat gay couple of surrogacy arrangement – Family Court

11 May 2015 by

surrogate_motherH & S (Surrogacy Arrangement) EWFC 36, 30 April 2015

M, a fifteen month old girl, was born as the result of artificial or assisted conception and of a highly contested agreement between S (the mother, a Romanian national) and H (the father, of Hungarian extraction) and B (the second applicant and H’s partner who had moved to the UK in 2004). None of these parties are portrayed in the photograph illustrating this post.  Read judgment here

H is in a long-term and committed relationship with B and was at the time of conception. H and B contended that they had an agreement with S that she would act as a surrogate and that H and B would co-parent the child but that S would continue to play a role in the child’s life.  It was a central part of their evidence that S offered to help them become parents and, following discussions between them, first with H and then involving B, the parties agreed to proceed on the basis that H and B would be the parents to the child and that S would have a subsidiary but active role. On 20 or 22 April 2013 M was conceived by artificial insemination using sperm from H at the applicants’ home. It is agreed by all parties that B was at home when the insemination took place. 
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Export of live animals for slaughter: European Court rules that animal welfare laws apply outside the EU

29 April 2015 by

Zuchtvieh-Export (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-4242/13 (23 April 2015) – read judgment

iStock_000004682690Small_CowsAnimal welfare groups and campaigners for humane farming  have welcomed the latest ruling by the European Court of Justice upholding the refusal of German authorities to allow the export of live cattle to Kazakhstan, a 7,000 km journey involving insufficient rest stops and unloading. According to Compassion in World Farming

Every year, over three million animals are exported from the European Union to non-EU countries. Hundreds of thousands are destined for countries in Russia, Turkey, The Middle East and North Africa. (Live exports from the EU)

This was a referral from German municipal authorities on just this question. It sought a ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) regarding the interpretation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations.
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Birth certificate cannot be retrospectively changed to reflect father’s gender reassignment

23 April 2015 by

birthcertificate300x203_4fba822944823JK, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Home Department and another [2015] EWHC 990 (Admin) 20 April 2015 – read judgment

This case concerned the rights of transgender women, and their families, in particular the right to keep private the fact that they are transgender.

The Court heard a challenge to the requirement in the UK’s birth registration system that men who had changed gender from male to female should be listed as the “father” on the birth certificates of their biological children. Having decided that this did engage the claimant’s privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, in conjunction with the right not to be discriminated against under Article 14, the Court concluded that the interference was justified.

Factual and legal background

The clamant JK had been born male. She was married to a woman, KK, and the couple had two naturally conceived children. After the birth of the first child in 2012, JK was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and concomitant gender dysphoria. In October 2012, she started a course of feminising hormone treatment. The treatment pathway requires two years living as a female before consideration is given for referral for gender reassignment surgery. Before the claimant started feminising hormone therapy, KK fell pregnant a second time, again conceiving naturally by the claimant.
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“Cold Calling” company fined £75K for breach of privacy

17 April 2015 by

iStock_000018110696XSmallReactiv Media Limited v The Information Commissioner (Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations  (2003) [2015] UKFTT 2014_0213 (GRC) (13 April 2015) – read judgment

Although an individual’s right to privacy is usually thought of in the context of state intrusion in one form or another, in reality the real threat of intrusion in a society such as ours comes from unsolicited marketing calls.

What many people may not be aware of is that if an individual has registered with the Telephone Preference Service, these calls are unlawful and the company responsible may be fined. It is therefore worth making a complaint, even if one instinctively feels that taking such a step will invite more intrusion. This case is a nice illustration of privacy being upheld and the rules enforced against an unscrupulous and persistent offender.

TPS is operated on behalf of the direct marketing industry by the Direct Marketing Association (DPA) and subscribers’ rights not to receive such calls may be enforced under Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
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Water companies are public authorities and must therefore disclose environmental information

16 April 2015 by

water_tapFish Legal v Information Commissioner and others (Information rights practice and procedure) [2015] UKUT 52 (AAC) Charles J – read judgment

Water and sewage utility companies are “public authorities” for the purposes of the environmental information regulations, and are bound by them accordingly, the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal has ruled.

Fish Legal is the legal arm of the Angling Trust. In 2009 it asked United Utilities Water plc and Yorkshire Water Services Ltd for information relating to discharges, clean-up operations, and emergency overflow. Emily Shirley is a private individual. Again, she asked Southern Water Services Ltd for information relating to sewerage capacity for a planning proposal in her village. All three companies denied that they were under a duty to provide the information under Environmental Information Regulations. Both Fish Legal and Mrs Shirley complained to the Commissioner. In 2010 the Commissioner replied, explaining that as the companies were not public authorities for the purposes of EIR, he had no power to adjudicate the complaints.
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